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  • Deb Bauer

Tips for Lower-Stress Vet Visits

A black and tan dog wearing an aqua bandana sits on a vet’s table.  A person dressed in white with white gloves gently holds the dog and is using a stethoscope to listen to the dog’s lungs.  Text says, “quick tips for lower-stress vet visits.”  and across the bottom.

Vet visits can be stressful - for us and for our dogs. We can feel badly when we need to take our dog to the vet, but we know they really get upset by it. Thankfully there are things we can do to support our dogs. Here are some ways we can help our dogs, ourselves, and the vet staff to experience less stress during vet visits:

  • Ask if you can check-in by phone and wait in the car with your dog until they are ready for you. Often waiting rooms with other dogs can increase stress levels.

  • If passing other dogs is stressful or difficult, ask to be brought in via a side entrance.

  • Bring security items that your dog knows from home - their special treats, a mat or bedding, a non-slip carpet for the scale and table, a travel sized licki or snuffle mat, etc.

  • Use techniques you’ve already been practicing at home - cooperative care and exam techniques, gentle containment when holding still is needed, a properly conditioned basket muzzle if appropriate, playing calming music on your phone, etc.

  • See my previous post about preparing for vet visits ahead of time at home so you and your dog are comfortable and feel safe with what’s going to happen.

  • Remember to breathe and stay calm. Your dog will pick up on your anxiety or stress, so gentle calm breathing can be helpful for you both.

  • Advocate for your dog - many dogs do better with procedures with their person in the room with them, and you know your dog best. Show the vet staff how your dog is used to being handled and how to get the best response from your dog.

  • It can be helpful for many to take your dog outside to toilet and then to the car before coming back in to pay. Your dog may be ready to leave after their exam and appointment, and may need a chance to toilet.

  • If you need to leave your dog at the vet’s office, try to bring familiar items from home - a favorite toy, bed/blanket, and something that smells like you to provide extra comfort.

  • If your dog is extremely stressed during vet visits, it may be best to ask the veterinarian how to best set your dog up for the next appointment to allow them to be successful. Sometimes pre-visit medications may be suggested and can be very helpful.

For a step-by-step program of teaching your dog how to cooperate for lower-stress vet visits, grooming and more, that you can follow at your own pace, check out Grooming, Husbandry, and Handling Games. You can also contact me directly for support in helping your dog feel better about trips to the vet.

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